History of Biman Bangladesh Airlines
The Wings of Freedom
The Tale of A Beautiful Airline
by Khan Musharraf Hussein
It all started some 42 years ago, when the free people of our newly liberated country had, perhaps, looked up into the skies and imagined a dreamboat of their own which could fly them to faraway places. The hopes and aspirations of the peoples of Bangladesh gave birth to Biman—the wings that would carry them beyond the sunset. The dream came true on January 4 1972. The beautiful airline was born with a unique birthmark—the only one born without any aircraft or ancillary.
Absence of aircraft, ancillary facilities and a massive shortage of funds had a crippling effect on the newborn airline of a newborn country ravaged by war. Its struggle for survival and growth began right from the word 'go'. The many uncertainties along the way sometimes created an atmosphere casting an abject frustration. However, Biman fought hard to keep its nose up and overcome many adverse situations.
The journey began with a DC-3 aircraft-an air force plane gifted to the new airline by the government. But the joy was short-lived. Before any service could begin, the aircraft crashed while on a training, flight. Biman was finally air borne on March 7, 1972 with flights to Chittagong and Sylhet and on March 9 to Jessore. Thus the domestic operation of Biman began. Since then there has been no looking back.
Indeed, it was the international operation of the airline which started first. On 4th March, three days before start of domestic operation, the first flight of Biman's international operation landed in Dhaka from London with 179 passengers on board. The aircraft used in the flight was a chartered one from British Caledonian.
It was not an auspicious beginning for a new airline of a war devastated country like Bangladesh. In the list of priorities for the resource hungry country, the position of an airline had to be far down the line. The highlights of Biman’s 42 years will actually not depict the agonies that the airline had to undergo, but will give an idea how the airline is surviving by charting a not so glamorous course like many of the competition.
Biman began its international operations with flights to London and Calcutta and its domestic operations with flights to Chittagong, Sylhet, Jessore and Ishwardi. Four F-27s joined the fleet, enabling Biman to operate domestic services and an international service to Calcutta. Two of the F-27s were acquired from India and two from the Netherlands. One DC-6 was also leased for two months.The service to London continued with the chartered aircraft.
Bangkok became Biman's third international destination and in the domestic sector Thakurgaon was included in the network. Four more F-27s joined the fleet of Biman. Two of these gifts from Australia and the other two were purchased from the Fokker Company. A leased Boeing 707-320C joined Biman's fleet to operate its Dhaka-London services. The airline also purchased another Boeing 707-320C.
Dubai and Kathmandu became Biman's fourth and fifth international destinations. In the domestic sector services were extended to Cox's Bazar. In the international sector, services were extended to Yangon, Abu Dhabi, Karachi and Mumbai in 1976. The second Boeing 707-320C, joined the fleet.
Singapore became another part of Biman's international network. Biman acquired its third Boeing 707-320C from Trans Air of Canada. Biman was made a corporation under the title- Bangladesh Biman Corporation. Jeddah, Doha and Amsterdam became part of Biman's expanding network in the international sector in 1978. Two more Boeing 707-320C aircraft were acquired, one of them from Japan.
The year turned out to be the year of route expansion. In the international sector, services were extended to Kuala Lumpur, Athens, Muscat and Tripoli. Syedpur became a part of the domestic network in the following year. Tokyo and Dahran were brought within the fold of Biman's network in the following year. An off-line office in Jakarta was also opened. Another Boeing 707-320C joined Biman's fleet in 1980.
The airline started operations to Rome and Kuwait, but suspended its Tokyo operation. Biman received one Being 707-320C as a gift from Kuwait and purchased two F-28s from the Fokker Company.
The airline entered a new era with the acquisition of three used wide-bodied DC-10-30s from Singapore Airlines. Baghdad was made on-line. Biman extended its international services to Paris and to Rajshahi in the domestic sector in 1984.
Bahrain was brought within Biman's network. One of the Boeing 707-320Cs was phased out. Services to Frankfurt were extended in the following year.
Riyadh was brought within the network in place of Dahran. Services to Baghdad were suspended. One more Boeing 707-320C was phased out.
The airline entered the select club of one million passengers. Services to Sharjah were opened and the suspended service to Baghdad resumed. A new DC-10-30, purchased from McDonnell Douglas, joined the fleet and the remaining Boeing 707-320C was phased out. The airline also encompassed modern technology with the commissioning of a Computerized Reservation System. The Flight Catering Centre at Hazrat Shahjalal Interantional Airport was commissioned which enabled Biman not only to upgrade its own in-flight services with high quality food, but also to earn additional revenues by other airlines. The Ground Training School was merged with the Apprentice Training School and moved to modern complex at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Two ATP aircraft joined the fleet for domestic routes and the F-27s were phased out in the same year.
New Delhi and Nagoya were included in Biman's international network and operations to Sharjah were suspended. The $ 30m Hangar Complex at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport was commissioned.
For the first time Biman crossed the Atlantic with services to New York. Hong Kong was also included in the network but operations to Nagoya were suspended. Two DC-10-30s were taken on lease.
A Computerized Departure Control was commissioned. Biman commenced services to Brussels and suspended its operation to Amsterdam in 1995.
The two new Airbus A-310 were purchased from Airbus Industries. One DC-10-30 and one A 310-300 aircraft were taken on lease for three years in 1999.
Another DC 10-30 and one A 310-300 aircraft were taken on lease for three years. Two B 737-300s aircraft were taken on lease for one year in 2003. The leased B 737-300 was released in April 2004. Further two F28 aircraft were purchased in May 2004.
Biman commenced services to Manchester on 08 April 2006. Biman suspended its operation to New York, Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt, Mumbai, Narita and Yangon for operational reasons.
Bangladesh Biman Corporation turned into a Public Limited Company. E-ticket and BSP were introduced.
The airline went into an agreement with Boeing Aircraft Company for acquisition of 10 new generation aircraft of 4 Boeing 777-300ER, 2 Boeing 737-800 and 4 Boeing 787 the biggest ever deal in the history of Biman as well as the country. One Boeing 747-300 was taken on lease on ACMI basis for 12 months. Two more 737-800s joined the fleet in November.
One lease-hold Boeing 777-200ER joined the fleet. Two Boeing 737-800s were taken on lease for 5 years. The aircraft will remain in the fleet till January 2015. The airline took delivery of one Airbus 310-300 on lease for 3 years.
The first 02 of 04 Boeing 777-300ERs joined the fleet in October and November, 2011 and thus replacing the ageing DC10-30s, the long time backbone of Biman fleet.
The 3rd Boeing 777-300ER joined the fleet on 5th February and the 4th is joining in the second week of February. Now the airline has a new backbone comprising of Boeing 777-300ERs, the new work horses of Biman, named as the Palki, the Arun Aalo, the Aakash Pradeep and the Raanga Pravat.
During the four decades of Biman’s existence, many types of commercial airliners have adorned the fleet- ranging from the early leader, the venerable DC 3 to the modern ‘People’s Preference’, the Boeing 777. As stated earlier, the airline had placed a firm order for the fifth generation Dreamliner to complement its fleet. Fuel efficient Dreamliner is a new wonder of the skies.
Biman can look back with pride to many occasions where it made memorable contributions to the nation and the travelling public. When the floods of 1988 engulfed the whole country Biman operated an air bridge providing the country's only link with the outside world. As the flood waters moved up, even on to the run way at HSIA, the skill and dedication of Biman's pilots kept the air bridge operational.
Biman Becomes Part of History:
On February 20, 2014, Biman operated the historical final-flight of world’s last passenger DC10-30 on Dhaka – Birmingham route and thus recording its name in the annals of world aviation history.
Exciting Times for Biman!
The newly appointed Managing Director and CEO Kevin Steele, on his assuming the office, said, `These are exciting times for Biman. My role is —with your help and support-to move Biman into profit as soon as possible, to increase its fleet significantly, to massively improve punctuality and customer service, and to make Biman an airline that its staff, and the Government and people of Bangladesh can be truly proud of.